May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, October 1997


As this 20-year occasion reminds us, a pleasant consequence of an extended publishing run is the opportunity it affords to see writers develop, change, grow long in tooth and short in hair. Some of the following have been with

Outside since the beginning; others joined the magazine more recently. In all cases, we're pleased to have them. So pleased, in fact, that we've done some of them the honor of photographically documenting their journeys from 1977 to 1997.

Editor-at-large Tim Cahill, a founding editor of Outside, is the khakied dean of the adventure-travel yarn. His far-flung tales, in collections with such unmistakable titles as Pecked to Death by Ducks and, most recently, Pass the Butterworms, are regarded as classics of the genre. This month, Cahill takes us to Mali for another of his signature reports, this one featuring bandits, kidnapping, and the ancient sand-choked city Timbuktu. It's a wild backdrop, and an apt place for pondering the current state of adventure travel. "Getting to places that aren't served by Western outfitters increasingly means going into politically unstable situations and facing a certain tang of danger," says Cahill. "Which is when I generally hide my passport and become Canadian." Accompanying Cahill on this latest jaunt was Aspen-based photographer Chris Rainier, whose past Outside assignments have landed him at the North Pole and in the jungles of New Guinea, among other spots. Keepers of the Spirit and Where Masks Still Dance are two recent collections of Ranier's photographs; still more will be on view next year, in an exhibition at the Smithsonian.

Correspondent Jack Hitt has investigated everything from the PCism of backyard barbecuing to the frigid existentialism of Barrow, Alaska, for Outside. In between, he's written a book, Off the Road: A Modern-Day Walk Down the Pilgrim's Route into Spain, and mastered on-the-air chatter, weighing in regularly on public radio's This American Life. This month he lights out for the Gucci Frontier of the American West, where billionaire "ranchers" are learning thorny lessons about homesteading. "They've discovered that ranches are just like yachts and trophy wives," explains Hitt. "They look great, but they're a huge pain in the ass."

Kate Wheeler grew up in South America as the daughter of an exploration geologist and later spent three years studying at a Buddhist convent in Rangoon. Which somehow or other, no doubt, contributed to her being tabbed by Granta as one of the "20 best young American novelists." She's now at work on a novel, When Mountains Walk, set in the same gloomy Amazon drainage that formed the backdrop for her memorable tale-which appeared in Outside last year-of Don Benigno A˜azco, an adulterous, incestuous, murderous Peruvian settler.

Jon Krakauer's best-selling Into Thin Air, an account of climbing Mount Everest during the peak's deadliest storm, began as an Outside assignment for which he won the 1996 National Magazine Award for reporting. His story on Chris McCandless, a young man who died while attempting to live alone in the Alaskan outback, was nominated for a 1994 National Magazine Award in feature writing and also became a 1996 best-seller, Into the Wild. A gifted alpinist and sometime carpenter, editor-at-large Krakauer has been a steady and welcome presence in Outside's pages since 1981.

Editor-at-large David Quammen wrote the magazine's Natural Acts column for an amazing 15 years, garnering two National Magazine Awards, a legion of fans, and our everlasting admiration. The former Rhodes Scholar took leave of his monthly gig to concentrate on his books (he's the author of seven, including the acclaimed The Song of the Dodo, a portion of which appeared in these pages last year) and to contribute longer features to the magazine, including this month's "The Improbable Lion." It's a relationship we're thrilled to continue, since Quammen defines Outside as well as anyone. "One of the things I like about the magazine is that it's not afraid of peculiar but fruitful combinations of physical and intellectual adventure," he says, with surprisingly little prompting on our part. Quammen's Wild Thoughts from Wild Places, a collection of essays mostly from Outside, will be published next February by Scribners. Quammen's story in this issue is illustrated by the work of Los Angeles photographer Michael Llewellyn, a frequent Outside contributor who, in addition to his magazine work documenting the natural world, also photographs record covers for somewhat more unnatural subjects such as Phish and Joe Satriani.

Outside correspondent Jim Fergus makes himself at home in two locales: northern Colorado and the Florida panhandle. He manages to keep busy in both. His first novel, One Thousand White Women, will be published early next year by St. Martin's Press, and Fergus is already at work on a second novel and a collection of hunting and fishing essays titled The Sporting Road.

Longtime contributing editor Bob Shacochis has written five books, including the National Book Award-winning Easy in the Islands and the forthcoming The Immaculate Invasion, about the 1994 U.S. military intervention in Haiti and its troubling aftermath. The consequences of another invasion (of a sort) drive Shacochis's story this month as well, as he casts about for clues to understanding the most richly mythologized adventure destination on earth, Kathmandu. "Every day you're there you find yourself wrestling with the question, has adventure tourism been good for the place, or has it become yet another form of designer imperialism? Regardless of your answer, Kathmandu remains one of the world's most intriguing cities."

Marshall Sella slips on his ombudsman's cap this month, righting past geographical wrongs from Outside's pages and bestriding the office globe like a semi-omniscient colossus (apologies to Shakespeare). "I have a technical term for west-'left,'" says Sella, a former editor here. "Just say I'm directionally challenged."

Contributing editor Tad Friend hooks up in this issue with Migueltxo Saralegi, the barrel-chested world champion of stone lifting, a curious Basque folk sport that remains refreshingly innocent of the marketeering now so prevalent in athletics. Friend, whose previous Outside assignments have had him diving radioactive wrecks in the Marshall Islands and camping with neo-monkeywrenchers in Montana, got caught up in the excitement and tried lifting a stone himself, to very little effect. Apparently it's a Basque thing: "Stone lifting would never fly anywhere outside of Basque country," says Friend. "You'll never see Air Saralegi's at Foot Locker. Which seems for the best."

Mark Levine is an Outside correspondent who divides his time between Brooklyn and Missoula, where he teaches at the University of Montana. Neither place has seen a whole lot of Levine lately, however, since he's been circling the globe on our behalf. Having explored in our pages such diverse subjects as copper mining and the scourge of termites, he traveled to China's Yangtze River for this issue to check in on the construction of the largest public works project ever undertaken, the controversial Three Gorges Dam. Despite the dam's enormous environmental consequences, he says, Americans are in a precarious position to condemn it. "After all, we already have our TVA and our Hoover and Grand Coulee superdams," says Levine, "and the plans for Three Gorges Dam were actually drawn up by our Bureau of Reclamation." His story is illustrated with photographs by Tokyo-based photographer James Whitlow Delano, a former assistant to Annie Leibowitz and a regular Outside contributor. His one-person exhibition opens at Los Angeles's Kopeikin Gallery in December.

Essayist and poet Terry Tempest Williams lives in Salt Lake City and is descended from a long line of Mormon pioneers. An ardent conservationist, she is a former naturalist-in-residence at the Utah Museum of Natural History and the author of numerous books, including Refuge, An Unspoken Hunger, and Coyote's Canyon.

Contributing editor Daniel Coyle, who grew up in Anchorage and now lives in Homer, Alaska, feels a special connection to his home state's worst environmental disaster, the grounding of the Exxon Valdez. "A little while after the wreck I was working on my outboard motor on a dock in Kachemak Bay and accidentally spilled a couple of teaspoons of oil into the cove," says Coyle, the author of Hardball: A Season in the Projects and a former senior editor. "Later someone saw the sheen and yelled, 'God help us-the Valdez oil has arrived!' For a few hours it was pandemonium. Luckily, the perpetrator was never apprehended." This month Coyle tracks down the figure behind the spill, Captain Joe Hazelwood, and sees what life as an environmental demon is really all about. Hazelwood was photographed by acclaimed New York portraitist Frank W. Ockenfels 3, a frequent presence in Outside's pages and the talent behind numerous music videos (Blues Traveler, Better than Ezra) and commercials (Converse, Nike).

Also this month, Coyle tags along as fitness infomercial king Tony Little infiltrates the Pacific island nation of Tonga, a small place with a big appetite and a national waistline in need of serious toning. The assault was captured on film by the Calgary-based husband-and-wife team of Mike Morrow and Ellen Brodylo, who in Outside issues past have trained their cameras on imperiled wild horses and Mexico's Yucatžn, among other subjects.

Former Outside senior editor Andrew Tilin had barely unpacked from a seven-month backpacking trip through Asia when we enlisted him to help oversee — with current senior editor Mike Grudowski — our chagrined look back at the evolution of outdoor sporting equipment. "Twenty years of corporate arms race," Tilin calls it, to feed ever-better (and sometimes ever-more-absurd) widgets into the pipeline of outdoor gear. The feature was photographed by Santa Fe studio photographer Clay Ellis, a mainstay of Outside's Bodywork and Review sections for the last three years.

Elizabeth Royte has been a regular contributor to Outside since 1991, writing about everything from giant pumpkins to maggot forensics to Botswana's wild dogs. She's currently the magazine's resident know-it-all, the voice behind our Wild File question-and-answer column.

A former Wallace Stegner fellow at Stanford, John Daniel is the author of The Trail Home, Looking After, and two collections of poems. The acclaimed essayist and environmental journalist lives in the foothills of the Oregon Coast Range outside Eugene, neighbor to the much-ballyhooed northern spotted owl, subject of his piece in this issue.

Charlottesville photographer Michael Nichols has been a contributor to Outside since the magazine's fledgling days in San Francisco, and his far-flung journeys for us have taken him from Georgian caves to Rwandan jungles to New Guinea whitewater. "I guess I've contracted every tropical illness known to man-and, really, I'm still not sure what all's wrong with me," says Nichols. Currently a staff photographer for National Geographic, he's finishing his latest book, Brutal Kinship: Man and the Chimpanzee, which will be published next year by Aperture.

This month, Susan Orlean finds herself on the foggy shoulders of Mount Fuji, that oddly talismanic cone of igneous rock that the Japanese have held sacred for millennia. The undertaking was one for which she was not altogether prepared. "I'm a flatlander," says Orlean, a staff writer for the New Yorker. "Growing up in Cleveland, mountain climbing meant driving up to Shaker Heights." Orlean, who profiled the matadora Cristina Sžnchez for Outside last December, is putting the final touches on her second nonfiction book, a work about orchid smuggling titled The Millionaire's Hothouse. Her Mount Fuji story is illustrated by New York documentary artist Steve Brodner, who summited alongside Orlean. Brodner got his start, as he puts it, as a "pissed-off political caricaturist" at a New Jersey newspaper back in the seventies, and now contributes often to Outside as well as many other magazines.

Robert Stone has written about surviving a South Pacific gale and cruising the island maze of Vietnam's Ha Long Bay for this magazine. Recipient of the National Book Award for his novel Dog Soldiers, he is also the author of A Flag for Sunrise and Outerbridge Reach. Stone's sixth book, a collection of short stories titled Bear and His Daughter, was published earlier this year.

A longtime friend of Outside, Donald Katz is the author of three books, including The Big Store: Inside the Crisis and Revolution at Sears and Just Do It: The Nike Spirit in the Corporate World. The recipient of a 1994 National Magazine Award for an Outside story, Katz has plumbed everything from the peculiar sport of ferret legging to the continuing testosterosity of Jack LaLanne. In his latest entrepreneurial undertaking, Katz is cofounder and president of Audible Inc., a media company that provides audio programs via the World Wide Web.

Features editor Hal Espen, who this month writes about the siren call of outdoor obsessions, most notably mountain biking, recently spent seven months in an off-the-grid cabin along Oregon's Rogue River as part of a PEN Northwest fellowship-a decidedly more rustic working environment than he enjoyed for ten years as an editor at the New Yorker. The local mountain biking venues improved considerably, too; in Manhattan his singletrack experience consisted of decorous rides through Central Park on an antique Raleigh three-speed ("Your basic country parson's ride," he notes). Espen's feature is accompanied by the work of Los Angeles photographer Craig Cameron Olsen, whose frequent assignments for Outside have taken him to the U.S. Olympic ski jumping stronghold in Lake Placid and to the Hawaii Ironman triathlon.

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